Grunts [Mary Gentle]

Start Date: 9 August, 2024
Finish Date: 24 August, 2024

Source: Amazon US Kindle Edition

Goodreads Summary:

What is an orc?
An orc is an 18 stone fighting machine, made of muscle, hide, talon and tusk, with a villainous disposition and a mean sense of humour. And, of course, an orc is a poor dumb grunt – the much abused foot soldier of the Evil Horde of Darkness.
The usual last battle of Good against Evil is about to begin. Orc Captain Ashnak and his war-band know exactly what they can expect. The forces of Light are outnumbered, full of headstrong heroes devoid of tactics – but the Light’s still going to win. Orcs – the sword fodder in the front line – will die by the thousands.
Life’s a bitch.


  • I don’t remember where exactly I got the recommendation for this – possibly from annotations to Terry Pratchett’s Unseeen Academicals – but whatever it was, it made it sound like Grunts was a pathbreaking look at the Lord of the Rings from the orc’s perspective.
  • And it is – but that’s not to say that it’s good.
  • The characters are horribly unpleasant – which is the point, I know, but there’s writing that makes you appreciate unpleasant protagonists all the same. (More in TV? House, etc).
  • What makes the book annoying is that while Gentle tried to have an overarching plot, she defaults into making it a string of comedy sketches. Each one is funny by itself – up to a point – and the collection is just tiresome when stretched over a full book.
  • The conceit is funny too – orcs with NATO weaponry.
  • In the preface, Gentle talks about how the inspiration came from a Dungeons and Dragons game she played. Oh.
  • It also hits different in 2022, when Ukraine has started calling Russian soliders orcs. (I didn’t realise that LoTR, or Dungeons and Dragons, had enough cultural resonance in Ukraine for them to pick that name, but, you learn something new every year.)
  • It also raises my appreciation for a number of oglaf strips.

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